As it snows outside I’m preparing to host a music jam with friends tomorrow afternoon. Most of my friends are vaccinated and feeling comfortable meeting with others who are also vaccinated. There were lots of outdoor concerts once again over the summer, after a long hiatus, and Swallow Hill began hold live concerts indoors as people agreed to wear masks and show proof of vaccinations. It has really helped, but if you have been paying attention at all you know that some experts think we’re opening up too seen in light of the Omicron variant that emerged in December, while others have resisted masks and vaccinations all along. My friends and I have survived by sharing music over Zoom. Throughout last year I hosted a weekly song circle and participated in a second one. I’ve shifted my Zoom gathering to once a month, but continue to participate in a weekly Zoom song circle on Thursday nights.
Harry Tuft, who has hosted a Hootenanny at Swallow Hill on the first Friday of each month for many years, started holding his gatherings on Zoom when it was clear the pandemic would not back down quickly. He has continued to make this a virtual event for the time being. Performing over Zoom compared to playing at an open mic in front of a live group of friends is similar to training on a stationary bike indoors in the winter. It is better than nothing but does not compare to the joy of cycling outside in the summer.
My first live event, when it looked like things were opening up, was in May of 2021. People who were fully vaccinated and willing to wear a mask when not performing were invited to the eTown performance space in Boulder to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. The called the event “Pay or Play” and somewhat randomly selected interested musicians to perform a song. I got to sing “Blind Willie McTell,” a song that I understand was recording in anticipation of his album with Mark Knopfler, “Infidels,” but ended up only being available as a bootleg. They had another similar event to celebrate a handful of artists with August birthdays, including Rodney Crowell, Mark Knopfler, Elvis Costello, Buck Owens, Jeff Tweedy, John Lee Hooker, Kacey Musgraves, Phoebe Bridgers, Van Morrison, Percy Mayfield, and Robert Plant. I got to sing Elvis Costello’s “Human Hands” at that event. This is a song that appeared on the album, “Imperial Bedroom.” I was also fortunate to travel to Winfield, Kansas for this year’s Walnut Valley Music Festival, where I met up with good friends from Albuquerque and had the honor of performing a song along with Ruth Price as part of the New Song Showcase.
As, at best, a mediocre singer and guitar player, I am fortunate to get to enjoy performing with friends nonetheless, and lucky to have made so many good friends through music. I also keep learning new songs and new things on the guitar, so I hope that as I grow older this will help keep dementia at bay. If nothing else, it makes me happy.